Jim Byers Golf Course Superintendent Breckenridge Golf Club

Breckenridge Golf Club Bear #2 with Buffalo Mountain

Breckenridge Golf Club has three championship nines, the BEAR the BEAVER and the ELK. All three nines are Jack Nicklaus signature courses. Playing at 9300+ feet in elevation, each nine offers a mountain golf experience. Panoramic views of the snowcapped Colorado Rockies can be seen on every hole. Dense wooded areas give way to open native grassland and wetland areas. It is not uncommon to spot wildlife during your round. Seeing the beaver, deer and elk, an occasional moose and bear, abundant red fox and red tail hawks, you realize golf at Breckenridge is more than just golf.

Breckenridge Golf Club Beaver #5 with Clubhouse
Breckenridge Golf Club Beaver #5 with Clubhouse


Opened in 1985, the Bear was the first nine to grace the landscape known to the early day miners as Buffalo Flats. The miners certainly did not imagine golf in such an environment. What was once a tent city of miners seeking fortunes of gold, the landscape now is a challenging golf course with players seeking pars and birdies. The challenges for today’s golfer are quite similar to yesterday’s miners – nothing comes easy. You should shoot no higher than your handicap the first six holes on the Bear nine, because holes 7, 8, and 9 are as tough as they get. To finish this nine on pace with your handicap will take all of your skills. The Bear nine has the most open feel of the three nines, as many of the holes play around the native grasses and wetlands. Views of the Ten-Mile mountain range are most notable on holes eight and nine. For a great view of the ski runs at the Breckenridge Ski Area, look back down hole # 5 once you are on the green. The Bear was fittingly named for the black bears that wander onto this nine numerous times every summer.

Breckenridge Golf Club Beaver #9 Par 3 200 yards
Breckenridge Golf Club Beaver #9 Par 3 200 yards


The second nine to open, in 1987, was the Beaver. The Beaver nine has the narrowest fairways of any of the nines. Accurate drives, although not necessarily long drives, are a requirement for you to shoot your handicap on these nine holes. A venture to the left of holes 6, 7, and 8 and you will notice rock piles, tailings as the miners called them, leftover from the days of gold mining in the area. The miners were not the only creatures to leave their mark on the topography. The Beaver nine takes its name from the beaver ponds that are scattered along holes 6, 8,and 9. These holes have active beavers that helped create the challenges that await you on these holes. Don’t blame Jack Nicklaus for this design work. The beavers created the habitat and Nicklaus left it in place for your enjoyment. Enjoyment can also be read as frustration. The beaver ponds on the eighth hole seem to have a “magnetic pull” on the golf ball. Although this nine finishes with a par three, par is tough to come by. The change in elevation along with the swirling breezes makes this one of the toughest tee shots on the nine. Good luck! The large rounded mountain that frames the ninth hole is Buffalo Mountain, part of the Gore Mountain Range. Buffalo was the last active volcano in this mountain range, long before the Scots dreamed up the game of golf.

Breckenridge Golf Club Elk #7
Breckenridge Golf Club Elk #7


The success of the original 18 holes, prompted Town officials to look into expansion. Breckenridge did expand in 2001. The Elk nine opened giving golfers 27-holes to play. The Elk nine offers the most elevation change of the three nines, as well as the widest panoramic views of the Ten-Mile mountain range. It’s easy to see why the Elk like this area so much. With open views, a lake to drink from, and nourishing bushes and grasses to eat from they have it made. To the golfer having it made is a different story. The challenges of the Elk nine are accuracy, accuracy and accuracy. Without accuracy you too will be experiencing the lake, and the bushes. Although more open than the Beaver nine, drives must be hit to specific locations for the best approach shots into the greens. The sixth hole on the Elk nine is the shortest par four hole at Breckenridge measuring only 281 yards from the Nicklaus tees, which is quite drivable at the high elevation. But, as with most short par fours, the risk–reward ratio is skewed a bit to the risk side for those golfers opting to attempt to drive the green. Hole seven has the most elevation change of any of the 27-holes at Breckenridge. The tee box elevation on #7 is 9445’, the highest point on the entire golf course. The green level of #7 is 9370’, a change of 75’ from tee to green! Mountain Golf at its’ pinnacle!

1. How did you get your start in the golf industry? Where did you go to school for turfgrass management?

I had a seasonal job at the ski area and needed a job for the off-season.   

I have a degree in Ski Area Management.  Later, I got a certificate in Turfgrass Management from the University of Georgia.              

2. Tell us about your course and a little of it’s history.

Breckenridge Golf Club.  Owned and operated by the Town of Breckenridge, Colorado.  9,400′ elevation.  Jack Nicklaus signature course.  27 holes.  Opened in 1985.  9-hole expansion in 2001.  In the winter, the course is part of the Gold Run Nordic Center, which offers cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and fat-biking.           

Breckenridge Golf Club Beaver #8 looking back to the fairway
Breckenridge Golf Club Beaver #8 looking back to the fairway

3. Describe the Most difficult hole? The unique one? Your favorite?

My favorite is the 8th hole on the Beaver course.  It is the signature hole of the original 18-hole course. Beaver ponds are in play on every shot.  

4. Who was your earliest mentor in the industry and how did he inspire you?

Dr. Paul Rieke was a family friend, growing up in Michigan.  My folks would ask him questions about their lawn.  I got some advice from him as a summer groundskeeper before moving to the mountains.  Years later, I learned that he is regarded as the leading authority on turfgrass soils and nutrition.

Related: Doctor Turfgrass aka Dr. Richard Hurley, Does it Again

Breckenridge Golf Club Bear #7 with Baldy Mountain
Breckenridge Golf Club Bear #7 with Baldy Mountain

5. Plans for Renovations?

The multi-year process of replacing our irrigation system will be completed this June. 

6. Favorite piece of equipment? Why?

Toro 648.  I like how fast it is, and that it doesn’t rum over the plugs.  We core aerate with it and vent during the season. 

7. What is your favorite part of the job, least favorite?

The beautiful views.  The season is short at 9,400′.

8. Next tournament scheduled.

A fundraiser for the Summit Foundation in June.

9. Can you tell us a little about your family, how you met your wife, kids’ names? What do you like to do away from work? If you have time to yourself, what do you like to do?

My wife, Deb, tended bar across the hall from our employee locker room at the ski area.  We have two daughters, Jamie and Sarah, who are all grown up.  I don’t ski or golf much now due to an achy back.  I love anything in, on, or near the water.  I especially enjoy sailing and fishing.

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